BENTON — Metro East volleyball powers Belleville Althoff and Breese Mater Dei cut a swath through Southern Illinois Monday, knocking off Murphysboro and Massac County in straight sets at the Benton 3A sectional.
Althoff took down Murphysboro 25-14 and 25-13. Mater Dei advanced to Wednesday’s championship game with a 25-10 and 25-17 win over Massac County.
In the first match, Murphysboro appeared willing to play with 38-1 Althoff. A blistering kill by Mallorie Harris pulled the Red Devils to within 12-10.
“We really went toe-to-toe with them pretty well for the first 14-15 points,” said Murphysboro coach Mike Layne. “We had seven hitting errors in that first game. We’ve had times all year that we haven’t had any hitting errors. You can’t make those kind of mistakes against a very consistent, well-oiled team.
“We were digging the ball up really well. We were getting our shots in, getting our kills in. We just weren’t consistent enough.”
Once Althoff got on roll, the momentum snowballed.
The Crusaders finished off the set with a 6-0 run, including a pair of aces by Katie Wemhoener.
That momentum carried over in the second set when Althoff rolled to a quick 12-3 lead.
“We went into the second set saying we needed to up our level of play and jump start and finish even stronger than they started,” said Althoff coach Sara Dietrich. “I think the girls did a nice job of that.”
Eventually the constant pounding of Wemhoener, Karinna Gall and Addie Burris wore the Red Devils down.
“That’s the nice thing Louise (Comerford) our setter does,” Dietrich said. “She runs an efficient spread offense it keeps the blockers on the other team respecting her and guessing where she is going to set, which is a nice asset for us.”
Murphysboro finished the season at 27-10.
In the second match of the night, Mater Dei got out of the gates like Althoff finished.
Mater Dei’s A.J. Hallemann rattled off a 9-0 service run to start the set. Senior Mikaela Kues had four kills in that run. Two more points came on Hallemann aces.
“They don’t make a whole lot of mistakes,” said Massac County coach Zach Miller. “They aren’t going to give you anything. I counted up our passing errors in the first set. I said, ‘Girls, we’re going to have to get a couple balls up in the air.’ We did a better job with that the second set.”
Thoughout the first set Mater Dei got solid swings from outside hitters Kues and Morgan Revermann.
“It was really nice for the pins to get to swing away,” said Mater Dei coach Chad Rakers. “It looked like a lot of fun from where I was sitting.”
The second set was more pedestrian as neither team was able to string together a run. Massac County closed to 16-15 on a Mater Dei hitting error, but the Knights regrouped behind another service run by Hallemann.
Mater Dei closed out the match on Riley Pollmann’s kill.
“We were planning to use the pins,” Rakers said. “Obviously that was pretty successful, especially in game one. It is hard to stay at that same level in game two. That’s what I talked to the girls about. We were just lacking that focus in the second game. Part of that was the speed that was being played in the second game. We have to do a better job of controlling what we can control and not worry about what the other squad does.”
Massac County’s season ends at 30-8. Mater Dei is 27-9-2.